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Improved gender balance in management roles, more confident team members and networking opportunities are just some of the benefits that Bourne Leisure has experienced from using People 1st’s Step Up programme.

The organisation, which operates three of the UK’s most successful holiday brands – Haven Holidays, Warner Leisure Hotels and Butlins – has a 50-50 split between men and women in its workforce. However, like many organisations, this balance tips heavily towards men as team members rise through the ranks. At present, only one member of the Bourne Leisure board is female.

With consumer research showing that the majority of family holiday-purchasing decisions are made by women, the Bourne team realised that it made commercial sense to work towards a better gender balance at senior levels.

Sue Davies, head of human resources at Bourne Leisure, says: “We looked at why we had so many women at junior levels who weren’t progressing into higher management roles and found that a lot of the time, it was down to confidence, particularly with women who had taken a career break to have children.

“We want women to be confident in putting themselves forward for more senior roles and to challenge the way things are done in the workplace. So, when I found out about the Step Up programme through People 1st, I felt it would help us achieve this.” The five-day Step Up programme helps build women’s confidence in their leadership abilities and encourages them to set both personal and professional goals.

Tailored especially for women, it covers topics including knowing your own leadership and management style, making a powerful impression through your appearance and body language, how to delegate effectively, negotiating and influencing skills and techniques for handling difficult conversations.

Bourne has now put nearly 50 women through the Step Up programme and, thanks to funding People 1st obtained through the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, has also been able to access a grant to support some of the training costs.

Sue says that the training is already starting to have an impact across the business.

“It’s still early days,” she explains, “but we are definitely seeing more women in management positions now.

“For example, one of our accountants had come back into work after having children. She took part in the Step Up programme and is now heading up our purchasing system project. She’s also doing further training through the Institute of Leadership and Management. Another of our Step Up trainees is now marketing manager for our Haven brand.

“Feedback from the women who have done the training has been excellent too – it really opens their eyes to where they can add value to the business and boosts their confidence. While we do our own internal leadership training too, offering something that is specifically for women gives them the opportunity to learn from one another and realise that doing things outside of the traditionally ‘male’ model of the workplace can be a positive thing.

“It’s also a fantastic networking opportunity and a chance to share knowledge with people from other parts of the business that they would never normally interact with.

“It’s even had an impact on our marketing – we had a very successful summer last year and our marketing campaigns led by, and targeted, at women has definitely contributed towards that.” Bourne Leisure is continuing to work towards a gender-balanced board and plans to keep using the Step Up programme as part of its plan.

“We now see the Step Up training as part of our HR strategy and we plan to continue using the training, as we know that change needs to start at middle management level where women so often tend to drop out of the workplace, or choose to stay at their current level,” says Sue.

“We’re also looking at how we can introduce other programmes to support women at the more senior levels to reach board level.”

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